Washington Woman magazine will have a new look when its fourth anniversary issue comes out in April -- more splash, more color, and twice as thick, according to Tricia Fox Gordon, president of Regional Woman Inc., the new owner of the 40,000-circulation monthly magazine.

The Milwaukee publishing company, which publishes Wisconsin Woman magazine and is a national advertising sales representative for 20 other magazines, took over Washington Woman in December for an undisclosed price.

Washington Woman has struggled to gain a secure footing in the competitive Washington magazine market since its inception in 1984. Gordon said the magazine is not making a profit, but "with more color and more fun," she said, she expects a change in the bottom line.

Mary Lou Beatty, who has been the magazine's editor and publisher, will remain. But Gordon said she has brought in other employees to beef up the advertising sales and editorial staff.

Gordon said she was interested in the magazine because of the Washington market, which has a large number of professional women. "It's a savvy, upscale marketplace," she said.

"The primary reason we saw an opportunity was that Washington Woman just didn't have an advertising sales staff," and therefore could not sell sufficient advertising to bring in the cash needed to improve the magazine and make a profit, Gordon said. "That's something we know how to do," she said.

Gordon acknowledged that Washington Woman faces tough competition for advertising from other magazines, including The Washingtonian, Dossier and Regardie's. She said she has met with representatives of major department stores and other area retailers to find out what would make Washington Woman more attractive to them, and they complained that the magazine looked too much like a newspaper. So the new look will be glossier and slicker, according to Gordon. It also will cost more; the per-issue price rises to $2.50 beginning with the April issue, up from $1.95.

Asked how much she plans to invest to improve the magazine, Gordon declined to give a specific amount. Instead, she laughed and replied, "Tons. But I plan to make tons, too."

Washington Woman launched a circulation campaign a few weeks ago, sending out letters to 200,000 households. The magazine currently has 10,000 paid subscribers and sells about 6,000 copies at newsstands. The remaining 24,000 circulation is controlled circulation -- that is, the magazine sends free copies to certain households to guarantee advertisers that its readers will include the more upscale parts of the Washington market. Gordon hopes to have 50 percent paid subscriptions within two years.

Gordon founded Regional Woman just over a year ago. It is her first venture into magazine publishing. She previously started and then sold a chain of day care centers in Chicago.